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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Suburban pubs most at risk

A partly demolished Plough in Southport
Suburban pubs face a greater chance of closure than rural or town and city centre pubs, according to CAMRA. During each week of the first half of 2015, seventeen pubs were lost suburban areas, nine in the countryside and three on the High Street. This follows separate research that showed there has been a 4.4% decline in wet-led outlets over the last year, higher than the the overall figure.

This is borne out by our experience locally: suburban pubs we have lost in Southport include The Herald, The Portland, the Shakespeare, the London and the Plough - all in predominantly residential areas. A CAMRA spokesperson said: "Suburban pubs are classic street-corner, wet-led pubs and community locals that have been an integral part of British culture for hundreds of years. Unfortunately though, as drinking habits change and property prices rise, they are being hit the worst."

I think that's true, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Debt-ridden pub companies are reluctant to invest in pubs that may be only moderately profitable. Older suburban pubs often sit on large sites in areas that already residential in character; redevelopment into accommodation must be very tempting for the owners. In this way, a pub that isn't doing a great deal for a pub company can suddenly become a lottery win.

It's my view that the pub companies sometimes help this process along by neglecting their pubs so that they become dingy and uninviting, thus driving customers away and into the town centre pubs, which are generally better maintained (three of the pubs named above were very close to the town centre anyway). The pub is then deemed unviable and closed.

The call by industry organisations for further cuts in beer duty, business rates and a hospitality rate of VAT. These might help, but they won't do anything to sort out the debt mountain the pubco industry is stuck with. Cashing in their assets will therefore remain a preferable alternative to continuing investment and moderate returns.

4 comments:

  1. I can't help thinking that the description of suburban pubs as "classic street-corner, wet-led pubs and community locals"is a bit wide of the mark. Those are the traditional inner-urban pubs, most of which have now gone.

    Suburban pubs are a different species - usually purpose-built, and dating back no further than 1880.

    The general point is valid, the specific analysis isn't.

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  2. I agree that the CAMRA spokesperson's description was too narrow. None of the pubs I mentioned really fits that description.

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  3. Think how much nicer those areas must be to live in now there is no grotty pub bringing the area down.

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    Replies
    1. There's always a silver lining if you look hard enough.

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